The Sierra Club Congressman
John J. Miller’s National Review article on the GOP primary race in Maryland’s 1st congressional district is now freely available on NRO.
On February 26, 1998, Andy Harris spotted a headline in a copy of the Washington Post that was sitting in the doctor’s lounge of the hospital where he works. “I still remember that it was on the front page of the Metro section, on the right-hand side,” he says. Here’s what it announced: “Md. Senate Delays Bill on Abortion; Issue Won’t Resurface This Year, Officials Say.” The story described how his state senator, a Republican, had played a vital role in killing a proposed ban on partial-birth abortions. “He led the fight against it, which really surprised me,” says Harris. “I decided that he couldn’t cast a vote like that and not be challenged.”
Harris had no political experience beyond his occasional attendance of local Republican-club meetings — the kind of gathering that he says usually drew fewer than a dozen people. Harris nevertheless resolved to take on state senator F. Vernon Boozer, a 17-year incumbent, in the GOP primary — and won a victory that shocked Maryland’s Republican establishment.
Now Harris is both aiming higher and trying to repeat history: On February 12, he’ll square off in a GOP primary against Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, a liberal Republican who has sat in Congress for as long as Boozer served in the state senate. The contest, which also features state senator E. J. Pipkin, promises to be one of the most expensive in Maryland’s history. More important, it could function as a Republican bellwether: Are conservatives so disgruntled following the defeats of 2006 that they’ll evict a longtime incumbent whose voting record places him well to the left of his constituents? …